It’s time for your salon interview: You’ve picked out the perfect outfit, you have examples of your best cut and color work to showcase, and you’re prepared to answer all the tough questions the salon owner asks you—what’s left to worry about? You got this!

Besides trying to impress the owner, it’s important to choose a salon that has a culture that aligns with who you are. Often, we spend more time at work than at home, so it’s important you choose a “work home” where you feel comfortable, where you feel supported, and where you feel like you have opportunity to grow and learn.

“You can feel it from the beginning based on how you are handled on the phone, how you feel when you walk in, how the team works together or not, and how happy and harmonious the environment appears to be,” says Jon Snetman, owner of Jon Alan Salon in Nashville, Tennessee.

Does the salon have education programs? Advanced education will keep your skills as current and fresh as possible, in addition to opening up the opportunity to service new guests and new markets. When a new product launches—think retexturizing, extensions, lash enhancements, even nails—will your salon invest the time, and funds, to bring you education to learn the launch? Some brands won’t even sell product to stylists who haven’t been properly certified in its use. If you’re just starting out your career in beauty, ask what their trainee assistant program looks like.

“Does the salon have an outline for how their training will go, and a timeline for testing out to the floor, or are they winging it,” says educator Missy Megginson of @soyoureahairstylist.

Think about your income potential at the salon. Rather than focusing exclusively on an hourly wage or commission percentage, ask what you can charge for your services. If your work commands a higher ticket, it’s important to find out if the salon can accommodate that price tag.

“Ask what the top stylist’s income looks like,” says Mackenzie Tereault, a stylist at Habit Salon in Gilbert, Arizona.

Keep in mind that a total compensation package goes beyond an hourly wage, or commission percentage plus tips. In addition to health/dental/life insurance, get specific about certain benefits like annual vacation time, requesting time off, sick days, retirement plans or any 401k contributions, and retail commissions structure.

“If there is a non-compete contract with the salon, what does it entail?” says Angie Sapanaro, a stylist at Angie Sapanaro Salon Lofts in Mayfield Heights, Ohio. “Make sure you look over all the details before you sign anything. If you’re going in with an existing clientele, write it down on a piece of paper and attach it to your contract that those were your clients before you started working there.”

Non-competes are designed to protect the business owner from being hurt by a stylist getting a new salon job at a space in the same area, taking their clients with them.

Haley Garber, Ohio-based bridal stylist, says non-competes within a reasonable radius are to be expected. “How you define ‘reasonable’ depends on your demographic,” she says. “A non-compete that raises red flags is when it is highly restrictive, such as a very large radius or one saying you essentially cannot do your job for a certain amount of time after leaving. A non-compete that allows a stylist to continue to work but outside of a certain area is understandable and smart on the owner’s part.”

Chicago stylist Yasmine Kitanovski says a telling question about the salon being the right fit for you is to talk to the owner about his or her background, and what drives them as an owner. “It’s also important to talk to the owner about the appointment-booking process,” she says. “Do you have access to schedule your own clients? Does the salon offer online booking? Is it easy for clients to see you? All of these answers will help you understand how invested the salon owner is in the salon and what type of culture they carry.”

Nicole O’Hare, a colorist in Southington, Connecticut, says to ask how long the other stylists have been working at the salon. “This gives an insight into the staff turnover or staff culture.”

It’s also important that to ask the owner, as you build your book, how many new clients the salon sees per year and what the model is for walk-ins. Ask how long it typically takes a stylist to have a full book if starting from scratch.

“I really love positive and creative environments so it would be nice to hear what the stylists love most about working there.” --@maxineeglynn

“Find out if it’s a team-player environment. When someone needs help, do others gladly step in, or is it every man for himself? Are the stylists rushing out the door at the end of the day? The salon needs to feel like a second home, so creating an environment that is genuine and positive is crucial.” --@bridal_bynatalie

“Find out if the owner will make you pay them back for education if you decide to leave salon. I understand why owners have these clauses in contracts, but it’s important to read through the fine print to make sure you’re protected.” --@angiesapanaro

 "Ask when the busy days are, and if you have to wait for a shampoo bowl ever. Also, do they ever run Groupons or coupon ads, and if you're allowed to opt out of it." --@lzhouseofhair

When it comes time to take advantage of all your new job has to offer, you’ll be glad you did your homework.

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